The Bible, while giving direction, wisdom, and insight into God's plan for humanity, needs to be approached with discernment, rightly dividing the word of truth. This phrase is taken from the apostle Paul: Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth, 2 Timothy 2:15. Paul stated it as a command, but more importantly, a skill to be developed.
Correctly understanding and applying the Word of God is paramount in our lives. Teachings, such as the distinction between the Old and New Testaments, the reality of the Holy Spirit, and the significance of the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus, are central concepts that affect not only our day-to-day decisions but our eternal life.
Whether you use the following material as a Sunday school lesson or to fuel your own Bible study, rightly dividing the word of truth will shield you from false teachings.
Studying God's Word demands more than a casual reading. It requires prayerful and focused exploration.
Trust that the Holy Spirit will give you revelation through the Scriptures, for they can only be spiritually discerned: the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.. to illuminate God's Word, for spiritual things are spiritually discerned, 1 Corinthians 2:14.
The Bible is divided into two main divisions, the Old and New Testaments. This division in the Bible is more than just a blank page. The Old Testament is full of prophecies, types, and figures fulfilled in the New Testament through Christ Jesus. Hence, the role of the Old Testament is a foundation upon which the depth of the New Testament can be understood.
For example, the Old Testament sacrificial laws were all fulfilled in Christ, the ultimate sacrifice. As such, we are no longer under the law, nor are we required to do the works of the law.
The New Testament provides the outpouring of grace through faith in Christ. Yet, obedience to the law was the only way for the Jews in the Old Testament to have access to God.
Galatians 2:16 states this very plainly: Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. In other words, no one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law.
Discerning between the different time periods, the dispensations, and the covenants in the Bible helps us to divide the word rightly. These include, among others, the covenants with Adam, Abraham, Moses, Christ Jesus, the dispensation of the grace of God, and the time after the second coming of Christ.
Covenants are agreements between God and man. For example, the Mosaic covenant depended on man's obedience (works of the law), while the new covenant totally hinges on God's grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
It is important to recognize which covenant the section of the Scriptures one is studying is part of. For instance, the curses from Deuteronomy 28:15–68 are not applicable to the born-again child of God because Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us, Galatians 3:13.
Paul's letters, for example, were mostly written to churches with established believers, providing instructions for Christian living.
Jesus’ sermons, on the other hand, were often directed at the general Jewish population. At other times, though, they were directed at His disciples. This is obvious in the parable of the sower and the seed where Jesus interprets the parable for His disciples. This distinction matters because the intended audience influenced the message.
Some scriptural truths are only applicable to the body of Christ, others to the nation of Israel, and others to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
To rightly divide the Word, you have to understand the proper context as well. Always ask the questions:
The essence of a word's meaning is found in its use in other parts of the Bible. Therefore, a good cross-reference Bible can be very helpful in rightly dividing the word of truth. Recognize when a biblical passage is literal, figurative, symbolic, or using hyperbole. This recognition helps you avoid confusion and misinterpretation.
Another important consideration is differentiating between Jesus' instructions before and after his resurrection.
The instructions Jesus gave pre-resurrection were given under the law. For example, many people use what is commonly called the “Lord's Prayer” as THE prayer to pray (Matthew 6:9–13, Luke 11:1–4) and it is often used in rote repetition without thought.
It's a prayer to our Father, and it's not done in Jesus name. This is actually an Old Testament prayer (before the death and resurrection of Jesus).
Jesus stated, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full, John 16:23-24.
Further, He says, And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it, John 14:13-14.
His post-resurrection teachings, however, focus on faith and life under grace. For example, in the “Lord's Prayer,” Jesus said, but deliver us from evil, Matthew 6:13. The Jews, under the Old Covenant, had no authority over Satan and therefore had no way to be set free or protected from evil. They needed to pray that God would do it for them.
However, now, under the New Covenant, post-resurrection, we have been given authority over ALL the works of the enemy, Satan. God doesn't do it for us.
Instead, we are told to: Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you, James 4:7. We've been given the power to resist Satan. Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you, Luke 10:19.
And we're told how to do this: And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God. For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith. Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them, Mark 11:22-24.
To maximize your Bible study time, learning a bit about the original languages of the Bible—Hebrew for the Old Testament and Greek for the New Testament—is beneficial. There are many tools and resources that can assist you in conducting a word study.
My favorite to use is Strong's Concordance. It's an easy way to quickly have the Hebrew and Greek original words along with their meanings. Using an online resource, such as Olive Tree, will let you hover over the English words of the King James Bible and see the original and its meanings.
For example, learning what the Greek word, Sozo, meant was the start of my healing from migraines and fibromyalgia.
Pray about it!
I've personalized Ephesians 1:17–20 so that you can use it as a prayer for yourself (This is also a great prayer to pray for others by inserting their name instead):
God has given us the Holy Spirit to guide us into rightly dividing the word of truth: Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come, John 16:13.
But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you, John 14:26.
Trust the leading of the Holy Spirit. It's only through Him that we will rightly divide the word of truth.
The Holy Spirit has been sent to be our teacher, but we have to show up at class and expect to receive. In other words, He doesn't do it for us. We need to be expectant and believing and then follow through.
Meditate on the Bible verses. Meditation is really nothing more than rolling the verse(s) around in your head. Focus your thoughts on God. It's not about emptying the mind (like some teach), but rather filling it with God's word and letting the Holy Spirit give you guidance.
Take your time!
It's not the volume of reading that matters. It's like digging for diamonds. You would not rush the process, lest you overlook a precious gem.
This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success, Joshua 1:8
Yes, this is an Old Testament verse, and it applied to the nation of Israel. We need to interpret it in light of the New Covenant. The blessings of this verse apply to us, since Jesus has fulfilled the law for us.
Your Bible study should transform you. Romans 12:2 tells us: Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. We're instructed to be doers of the word and not hearers only: But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves, James 1:22.
Approach God's Word with a heart ready to learn, change, and adapt according to its teachings. Allow the truth of the Word to mold you, and don't be conformed to this world (Rom 12:2). Never be in a rush to make the Bible agree with you. Peace is found when we agree with God. Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee, Isaiah 26:3.
As you delve deeper into your Bible study, rightly dividing the word of truth to understand the importance of these key biblical truths, remember that reading the Bible isn't about ticking off a religious checklist. It's about dwelling in the presence of the Lord, abiding in Him, communing with Him, and growing in wisdom. It's a journey where the Holy Spirit is your guide, leading you into all truth.
Keep in mind that the goal of all Bible study is not merely knowledge but transformation. We read the Bible not just to understand it but to allow the Word of God to change us, enlighten us and align us with God's will, especially as we live in these last days.
As you keep deepening your understanding of the Scriptures, maintain your humility. Acknowledge that there is always more to learn and more to understand.
Rightly dividing the word of truth involves understanding the context, rightly interpreting the Scriptures, being mindful of the audience, and allowing Scripture to explain Scripture.
Keeping these principles in mind will guide and enrich your Bible study as you grasp the depth of God's Word, helping you to avoid false teachings.
Thankfully, you are not on this journey alone. The Holy Spirit is always there, ready to guide, inspire, and enlighten. As you yearn for truth, He responds by revealing Christ Jesus, who is THE truth. Jesus said, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me, John 14:6.
So, keep studying, keep asking questions, keep seeking, keep rightly dividing the word of truth!
God will honor your desire for understanding and revelation. He has promised: ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart, Jeremiah 29:13. Understanding the word of truth takes time, dedication, and perseverance, but the rewards are immeasurable.
As you continue to read and study, let each word, each verse, each story open your eyes a little more to the amazing love and grace of God. Let the Word of God, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, sink deep into your heart and change you from the inside out.
As you grow in your understanding of the Word of God, may the eyes of your understanding be enlightened. May you discover the hope of God's calling, the riches of His inheritance, and the surpassing greatness of His power towards us who believe (Eph 1:17-23)
I encourage you to continue in your pursuit of truth. Don't stop because the journey may seem long or the hills steep. Remember, God's Word is a lamp unto your feet and a light unto your path (Psalm 119:105).
The book of Hebrews reminds us to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith (Heb 12:2). Hold fast to what you are learning and apply it to your daily life. Experience the transformation that comes from living according to God's Word.
God will give you wisdom and understanding. For the LORD giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding, Proverbs 2:6. May you continue to grow in your love for God and His Word as the Holy Spirit reveals to you the deep truths from the Bible that will change your life.
Unless stated otherwise, all Bible passages quoted in blue are from the KJV translation.